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Other Problems on Norfork and Coalition Possibly to be Formed


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I stopped by Quarry this afternoon on my way back to Jonesboro. The place really stunk of sulphur. The parking lot was full and it was wall to wall fisherman, mostly fly-fishing. I saw one nice brown (19"-20") struggling for its life just above the new ramp. I don't know if it was handled badly, effects of low oxygen, or both. I also saw some bad examples of fish handling. One gentleman caught a nice 17" -18" rainbow and decided to let it flop around the rocks for 3 minutes or so before finally retrieving his fly and sending the fish to its untimely death. I couldn't in good consience fish this area right now. I always tended to avoid it anyway in low water because of the crowds.

Hopefully, the cold weather and rain will help turn the lake over soon, and the low DO problems should improve. But something has to be done to correct this problem in the long term, or else we are going to lose the fishery. There is a lot of good info on this situation over on Wilson's board. I wish we could get more discussion going on this on this board on this subject.

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I was at a meeting yesterday with Davy Wotton and Tom A concerning the diminishing water quality on Norfork and the forming of a coalition to fight for better water quality. A meeting will be held December 1, with the location and time still to be announced. At this meeting members of state boards, chambers of commerce, guides, outfitters, the general public and anyone concerned about the possible death of an old man are invited. As Tom A said yesterday as we sat on the bank of Dry Run during generation the water flowing through the turbines was a potent toxic soup. I remember working as a crop duster loader in East Arkansas way before regulations on pesticides and it was the same smell. I hope that people from all over the State, FFF organizations, TU, Environmentalist organization and thosein power will come to this meeting. There are other issues facing the Norfork as well which will surface soon, including problems at the Federal hatchery. As to watching those people handle fish on the Norfork I even saw a gent kick a large brown upon the rocks down from the boat lanch. I will certainly hope that more people will become active in this fight. Davy Wotton is passionate about this cause and will come forward as the leader. Tom A has fought these battles before so its a start. Remember Norfork was out first impoundment and isn't there the likelihood that all of our lakes are suffering from the same disease but just have not manifested yet?

The following is an essay from Tom A on the Norfork

I propose to post the following simplistic opinion of a layman on several websites directly and/or indirectly concerned with the cold water fisheries of North Arkansas. If any addressee wishes to interject objection, clarification, fact, approbation, opinion or otherwise has anything to contribute please do so. I intend to do so anonomously since, as noted in the penultimate paragraph, I have little 'fight' left in me. I hope those who are, with this post, solicited to comment will respect my wish to remain un-named. But I hope to lure those concerned with our fisheries to step forth in hope that leadership will emerge. Without a standard bearer I fear there is no hope. It is most likely a false hope and futile gesture but I must try for the sake of my own conscience.

Respectfully, Tom Anderson (Crippled Caddis)


Watching An Old Friend Die

Many, or perhaps most of us, are familiar with 'beaver meadows'. For those who aren't familiar with the term it is a description of the level, fertile water meadows left behind after a beaver dam has been filled by years of sedimentation. Early settlers valued them as fertile grasslands on which they could produce bumper crops of fodder for their livestock.

The major difference between a beaver pond and a manmade lake is, for our purposes, little more than that of scope. The man-made reservoirs with which we are so familiar, those that provide the frigid waters that make possible the cold water fisheries that provide trout fishing where none existed naturally, are simply much larger in geographical dimension.

Our reservoirs function in exactly the same manner as the beaver pond. They act as a settling basin in which sediments brought in by flow of rivers and rains settle out of the water column and fall to the bottom, leaving the cold, clear water released by the dams that nurture the cold water fish downstream.

So far it sounds like a win/win deal---right? Well, yes and no. Eventually even the giant reservoirs will, like the beaver dam, silt up until they are just giant water meadows. Providing the works of man---the dams themselves, last that long. But that is far in the future you say. In most cases that is true, but even that is dependent on the nature of the earth itself in the watersheds. If it is rocky geology without deep soils nor steep grades that feeds the lake then the process will take a long time. If it is an area with deep soils on steep slopes that regularly experiences tropical downpours the timeframe becomes less appealing.

Unfortunately that isn't the snake in the grass. The serpent that lies in wait for the fisheries isn't even too closely related to the surrounding geological features of the wartershed. It is our own activities that, quite literally, poison the very waters in which swim our passion. The era of the large manmade impoundments closely parallels the era of "Better living through chemistry' so beloved of a DuPont advertising theme of recent memory. Since the large Corps of Engineers lakes such as Norfork started appearing around the time of WW2 that same time frame has witnessed the wholesale use of chemicals by industry, agriculture and homeowners. And as a direct result of long-term indiscriminate spreading of fertilizers, insecticides, fungicides, plant disease remedies on the land as well as heavy metal residues and industrial waste dumped directly into the waters that fertile sediment that made of the beaver meadows rich farmland now is richest in a slurry of chemicals inimitable to life dependent on clean water.

To make it even worse our lakes develop a thermocline in hot weather that isolates the water underneath that temperature induced barrier away from life giving oxygen. But even then things get worse for that lower layer of oxygen poor water is exposed to the greatest concentration of chemical agents in the sediment on the bottom. To think it isn't further degraded by that association is wishful thinking at best. But it gets worse yet. It is from those oxygen-poor, most degraded water that the COE takes the water that then enters the tailwaters. The very ecosystem that initially gave life for coldwater species has now became a chilly toxic soup.

Small wonder then that people often note that our rivers now stink. Small wonder that those who have spent a significant number of their years haunting the scant 5 miles from Norfork Dam to the White River have, in the last decade or two, witnessed the erasure of the rich aquatic vegetation that once made of the river a lush pasture for insects, scuds, sowbugs and other invertebrates lower on the food chain. Small wonder that that same lushness of green living plantlife has been replaced by ugly brown sludge that looks like it leaked from a sewage system.

The true wonder is that our fish yet live. But I think we all recognize that they don't exhibit the astonishingly rapid growth rates that we marvelled at when their ecosystem was yet healthy. The clean gravels that once nurtured a richness of aquatic life that provided a broad base in the food chain is now almost devoid of immature insects and invertebrates. How many Sculpin and Crawfish do you now see compared to 20 years ago? 10 years ago? How long has it been since you saw tiny pools left by receding river levels that squirmed with stranded scuds? How long has it been since you couldn't set foot on the gravels without crushing numerous sowbugs?

This morning I enquired of one of our coldwater fisheries biologists (who shall remain nameless) pretty high in the bureaucratic food chain if a toxicity study of the sediments in Lake Norfork had ever been undertaken. "Not that I know or" was the verbatim answer, but at least it was followed by indication of a willingness to find out. If my uneducated laymans' assumption concerning the toxicity of the lakebed sediments is in error I want to know. If I am correct I want our fisheries people to know. If it is a correctable we need to know. If it is terminal we need to know even more urgently.

It seems surreal that there is no apparent concern from local Chambers of Commerce or city Fathers. Our fisheries are said to bring @ $300M into the state each year yet business interests have not registered worry or even interest in the state of our rivers. How many local citizens would be detrimentally affected financially by a collapse of the fisheries that have became a destination for people all over this country?

Many people have tried to sound the alarm. Fox Statler being perhaps primary in the voices that cried for attention. But we have heaped scorn upon them, especially Fox, for having the temerity to point out that the sky is indeed falling. "The prophet is without honor in his own land", a folk saying so old that it predates recorded history, is the operative phrase people. And, like Fox, I fully expect to be shunned for pointing out that the Emperor has no clothes.

He who points out that the Emperor is nude should, in self-defense, have a suggestion for a solution. But the solution has been pointed out endlessly and so soundly rejected so often that it has no cachet'. The answer is for all feuding elements to take time out from their petty turf wars and power struggles long enough to create a single-front political entity loud enough and insistent enough for their combined voices to drown out the clang of cash registers in the Halls of State.

To take the bold initiative of calling for a 'Summit Meeting' of concerned organizations, individuals and affected business interests with invitations to C of Cs, Governor, politicians, heads of agencies with fiduciary responsibilities concerning our public properties and MEDIA will require a factor that has to date failed to appear----a leader.

Our waters haven't enjoyed the support of a steward, a Champion, since Chuck Davidson died. Like him or not, and his passion created enemies as well as supporters, were he yet with us the situation would have never arrived at the sad state it is in. Is it mere coincidence that it has been those same two decades since Chuck left his hallowed waters that the river has been in decline?

I'm too old, tired and worn from past battles, both won and lost, but there are young, energetic, forward-looking individuals with a vested interest in seeing to it that our fisheries decline no further.

Who will step boldly forth and assume the mantle of 'The Old Man of the Norfork'? Crippled Caddis

Glass Has Class

"from the laid back lane in the Arkansas Ozarks"

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It seems like the Norfork is under attack from all sides. The disolved Oxygen is a perenial problem that occurs every year. I have heard a great presentation on the problem from Darrel Bowman. I think it would be prudent to close fishing in the Quarry Park area during the spawn as this coincides with the DO issue. As for organizing another organization, isn't the Friends of the White and Norfork set up to look into issues like this?

John Berry


Fly Fishing For Trout




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You guys can count on my for as much support as I can muster...

This is something that ALL fishermen and outdoorsmen must concern themselves with... C&R, catch and eat, fly casters, bait casters, boaters, waders, hikers, hunters, bird watchers, swimmers, skiers, mountain bikers, wave runners, 4 wheelers, the list goes on and on...



"There he stands, draped in more equipment than a telephone lineman, trying to outwit an organism with a brain no bigger than a breadcrumb, and getting licked in the process." - Paul O’Neil

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From my piece entitled 'Watching An Old Friend Die' that Dano posted: <The serpent that lies in wait for the fisheries isn't even too closely related to the surrounding geological features of the wartershed. It is our own activities that, quite literally, poison the----waters>

While reading international scientific news this morning I sumbled across an article that is highly pertinant to the problems facing our reservoirs and the coldwater fisheries in their tailwaters. It concerns the dead zones in the oceans of the world.

<Pollution-fed algae, which deprives other living marine life of oxygen, is the cause of most of the world's dead zones that cover tens of thousands of square miles of waterways. Scientists chiefly blame fertilizer and other farm run-off, sewage and fossil-fuel burning.

Those contain an excess of nutrients, particularly phosphorous and nitrogen, that cause explosive blooms of tiny plants known as phytoplankton. When they die, they sink to the bottom, where they are eaten by bacteria that use up the oxygen in the water.

"The low levels of oxygen in the water make it difficult for fish, oysters and other marine creatures to survive as well as important habitats such as sea grass beds," U.N. officials said. "These areas are fast becoming major threats to fish stocks and thus to the people who depend upon fisheries for food and livelihoods.">

Consider for a moment: If the above statement is true, as I'm sure it is, how much more serious must the problems be in our reservoirs. Oceans provide a huge dilution effect to the manmade toxins entering them from the rivers of the world while our lakes on the other hand concentrates those same toxins. Note particularly the line " Scientists chiefly blame fertilizer and other farm run-off, sewage and fossil-fuel burning." and consider the huge amounts of petroleum based chemical fertilizers that are spread wholesale on the farms and pasturelands that comprise much of the watersheds of our lakes. Those lush, picturesque pastures that you admire on your way to your favorite tailwater come with a price. As do the many suburban lawns of which so many of us take such pride.

And consider too that hardly a river drains to the sea that doesn't have one or more lakes that function as a sediment basin to remove a significant part of the poisons before they cam escape to the oceans of the world. Where does common sense tell you the greater problems are concentrated?

Ugly mental image isn't it? Tom

The full article may be found at:


"You need only reflect that one of the best ways to get yourself a reputation as a dangerous citizen these days is to go about repeating the very phrases which our founding fathers used in their struggle for independence." ---Charles Austin Beard

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The incidence of low DO is of course a problem associated with seasonal times of the year, primarily when the main body of water, the lakes above the rivers turns over. The stratified levels due to water temperature change cause both high and low water temperature to start to mix. Coupled with also the changes within the chemical balance of that body of water and the aggravated effect we suffer from biological and introduced toxins, and so on.

The normal process of stratification is as.

The upper levels of the lake are the Epilimnion.

Then the thermocline and below that the Hypolimnion.

The upper levels may have levels of Oxygen content well in and above at times 8 parts per mill.

The lower Hypo , will be in the 2 parts per mill.

That level is inadequate for the support of fish life. At the lake bed you will have a sedimentary base that is essentially a oxidised layer of mud that will prevent nutrients from passing from that substrate.

And that is of course where all contaminants will eventually settle.

It is the incidence of light, climatic warmth, wind and wave action that accounts for the stratification within the body of the lake.

Biological process also is a contributing factor to how a body of water does moves around, along with other influences.

As the incidence of climatic conditions change so to does the 3 defined levels of the stratification as described.

It is also a factor the fisherman recognise so far as the most productive zones to locate fish at given times of the year.

This is a natural process that does take place in any body of water that has a acceptable depth for that process to take place.

Lakes are classified as having 3 primary factors so far as the value or being very high or non productive.

Eutrophic--being those that contain a healthy bio-mass for the support of all organisms and plant life.

It is the introduction of contaminants that are introduced that cause problems, as are well demonstrated for the lake systems we have here through the White river system.

And as the tail waters are subject to that water from above so to they are subject to that contamination.

When the lakes turn over that situation becomes even worse.

What takes place then is the Do levels are too low for the support of both fish, plant and invertibrate food forms.

Low do in the 2% causes metals to be dissolved into solution, increases the levels of micro spirosis, bacterial growth and with other factors, deludes the body of water from the nutrients that is needs.

The introduction of air as you and l know it does not solve the problem entirely as air consists of only around 25% of oxygen, the remaining bulk mainly nitrogen, that further aggravates the situation.

It is only the introduction of high levels of pure oxygen that can resolve or at least help this in-balance to become corrected.

One reason why we have to have such installations installed to correct this situation at times when we suffer from very low levels of DO.

It would also long term be a solution to, at least maintaining a higher level of acceptable water conditions for the rivers below the dams.

Such systems are costly, but one has to ask, do you continue to let the rivers die.


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River runner.

I assume that you are saying ( intakes ) you are relating that to the outlets from the lake to the river.

Stratification as l have already said a process that takes place early spring and into summer.

It is a combination of things that causes this to take place. Climatic conditions of warmth and sunlight cause such things as algae to flourish. Wind and wave action and the growth of green plant life contribute to bring about higher levels of dissolved oxygen into the surface of the lake.

The body of water, due again to wind and wave action starts to move around as the water temperatures change. Cold water will be in the Hypolimnion levels and the bed of the lake, warmer water will be in the surface and the thermocline will be at a given level related to upper and lower temperature.

It is at the bed of the lake that the process of decomposition takes place.

For that to take place there need to be oxygen and a biological process of living forms.

If the levels of contaminant are so great that the normal process of aerobic action cannot take place, then that causes a build up of matter that becomes toxic.

And has adverse effects to the body of water as a whole.

The lower levels of the lake, the Hypolimnion do not contain high levels of oxygen to start with, and that level, depending on the depth of the lake may hold a way higer percentage of water contained with a low DO.

During the cold periods, the wamer water sinks and starts to mix with the colder. Surface aggitation helps also this process.

In the case of our lakes the low levels of DO and the fact that they also contain vast amounts of decaying matter that is not being taken care of by natural process, the situation becomes worse as the action of water movement mixes the cauldron.

During the periods of cold weather there is no stratification as such, and that is the main reason why the entire body of water contained is thus subject to lower levels of DO.

There for, low levels of DO are always at the lower levels.

I do not know the levels that water is drawn off from the lakes, matter of fact l will find that out.

But l can tell you this.

The Norfork hatchery has 3 draw off levels. In the warm periods water from the upper levels is of no use as the temperature is way to high, so they drain off at given levels to regulate the temperature of the water.

At this point in time they have no choice but to draw water that is very low in DO, but they do have a oxygen infusion system to deal with that, to a point, as even now they are also loosing fish.

They need a way more efficient system to be installed.

Tailwater systems are of course a man made factor. Bodies of water contained behind a dam are to all intense and purposes a barrier to allow watr to flow its natural course as it once did.

The fact of the matter is that they also act as a trap for any contaminants that are allowed to infest that body of water.

When a situation arises that the normal process of biological break down cannot take place then we get problems, and so long as the contaminants continue so that problem becomes worse.

There is a very fine balance within the living organisims within a body of water. If that is in some way altered, which is the issue here, then the results of which will be seen for the rivers and streams that are subject to that water release.

And they are in consequence also deluded of nutrient and loss of suitable food base,vegetation, for the fish species that live there.

Without plankton, which is more or less the start of the food chain there is little hope.

One way or the other you are screwed unless that situation is dealt with.


I should have added here also.

This is the reason why we all need to support a action group to fight against the continual pollution of our waterways.

If not, you will see a decline to such a extent that you may as well go to a trout farm to fish, which to some extent is taking place now.

No more stockers, could the rivers support both long term survival and natural reproduction. Not a hope in hell, even if many new regulations were brought into effect.

Davy Wotton.

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